Aug. 09, 2022

Searching for China's Water(20) Mesh Water System Is Feeding the Yangtze River

Words and Pictures by Yangchuan Wang

     July 8, 2009, it was overcast in the sky when we walked out of our tent. On plateau, maybe rain, snow or hail would not last all day, but if it was cloudy, the weather was so cold that we could not afford. Crossing rivers was a special test to both our cars and us. Plateau Rivers are ice rivers.
On the way
A Road in the river’s source
across a river
Yesterday when we were in Tumen abandoned coal mines, Yong Yang said that artificially mining had a particularly enormous impact on the river’s source. If flows of groundwater were truncated runoff, desertification and land subsidence after destruction of vegetation would threaten of the ecology and nature of the river’s source. The construction of the Qinghai-Tibet railway made a number of businessmen whose own countries have very good ecological protection like Canada, peep minerals on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in the name of travelling.
Does it need fences here?
Over the years, many scientists who engaged in grasslands research work had been questioning on the fences in grasslands. In the grasslands, although these fences may let each family’s livestock be bred in the own meadow but the vast grassland not only belong to domesticated animals, but also is wild animals’ home. The fences created an obstacle to wild animals’ living space. Wuzhuo who was our guide from Nigang Township when we entered the river’s source spoke not good Chinese, but he was not happy when standing piles of wire, and seeing the grassland to be enclosed.
It need take time for we humans to understand nature, but if some mistakes which were already known still continue been made, our scientists and media people should come out to speak.
It originally should be a wetland or river based on the dry plants 
Looking for geological heritage
The river’s source under snow mountains
In 1998, when I came to the Yangtze River’s source accompanied China's first women's expedition to the Yangtze River’s source, Bang-xing Tang, a researcher of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute told me when interviewed, the area of the Yangtze River’s source was dominated by solid-state precipitation due to high elevation and cold climate all year round. Thus, here was an administration area of modern glaciers of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. According to glacier cataloging statistics, in the area of river’s source, there were 627 modern glaciers, and glacier area was 1168.18KM 2, which account for 47.1% and 61.6% of the total number and total area of glaciers in the Yangtze River system respectively.
 In the region of rivers’ sources, the majority of rivers and lakes have high salinity, and water quality is poor. I thought, water of rivers’ sources must be clean, and I never thought it would be considered to be poor water quality because it has a lot of minerals. It is a very simple reason, but often because of our lack of knowledge, some mistake concept probably in our mind for a lifetime. So, in all these years, the more into the natural, the more we find that we have very little understanding of nature, too little.
 In 1998, Bang-xing Tang said that as the most clean and natural fresh water resources, the glaciers was quite rich in the area of in the Yangtze River’s source. Annual rivers’ recharge from glacier melt water accounts for at least 25% of rivers’ flow in the rivers’ source region.
This time, the only scientist in our team, Yong Yang did not say such things to us reporters.
Yong Yang had a different opinion on the dispute on the river’s source in the third phase of this year's "National Geographic." He thought that the water originated in Geladandong snow-capped mountains accounted for about 80% of the entire volume of water of the Yangtze River, while Dangqu’s water was only 20%, and Qumar River’s water was even scarcer.
The water amount into the Yangtze River of three sources of the Yangtze River, Qumar River, Dangqu, and Tuotuo River were 10%, 20%, and more than 60% respectively.
An article in "Chinese National Geography" Phase III wrote that the source of the Yangtze River should be changed to Dangqu because Dangqu was longer than Tuotuo River in the latest determination.
Yong Yang said that if the Tuotuo River’s glacier was seriously measured up, it may be even longer.
"Chinese National Geography" Phase III said that the source of Dangqu originated from glaciers.
Yong Yang said that the glaciers of Dangqu did not directly form flows, while they formed shallow groundwater through seepage in basin, spring. Because the source of Dangqu was located in the east of Tanggula Mountains where there were little glaciers. The glaciers of Tanggula were mainly in the Geladandong.
    In this trip, one of Yong Yang’s objectives was to find the source of Tuotuo River which was farther than Jianggudiru Glacier.
It is the river’s source
On the way to glaciers
Such way to cross river was common
Go to pull a cart
If you want to go to the river’s source, it is necessary in such a way to go forward, forward.

In 1998, when we walked into the river’s source, we could see Geladandong snow-capped mountains and Jianggudiru Glaciers. Thus, if our cars could be driven, and could pass water, could be pulled out from mud, we will not give up our cars.
In 1998, when toward the Yangtze River’s source, I got some data. The historical record showed that in 2096 years from 185 BC to 1911, larger floods occurred in the Yangtze River’s source 214 times, and once an average of 10 years. Since the 20's to 70's, there were 11 big floods, and once about 6 years. Since the eighties, the frequency of the Yangtze River flood increased sharply. It almost had a small disaster every year and a major disaster every two years. The flow of the extra-large floods  occurred in 1998 was less than one in 1954, but in the past two months, the water level continued hitting an all-time high. Although millions of soldiers and civilians fought floods and provided disaster relief, it still caused huge loss of lives and property.
When I entered the river’s source and wrote the river’s source, each time I felt the river’s source which was the most sensitive to global climate change was too lonely, and really did not arouse the attention they deserve at home and abroad.
 (walk toward the river’s source in 1998)
Earth has hydrosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere. The composition of the ecological environment system of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is very complex. it extensively covered the four spheres. Thus some people said, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau could be called a laboratory of the world earth science, and it was more meaningful than the Antarctic, and the Arctic. Even if the Antarctic and the Arctic were well understood, while the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau was not understood, it was not clear about the reason of global environment and climate change. Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is a golden key to unlock the mysteries of the Earth.

In May This year, it was 10 days of snow in the Yangtze River’s source. This snow resulted in a death of 10820 livestock in a small Nigang Township. Did the outside world know the news? snow disasters of the river’s source were increasingly greater challenges for herders who watched the river’s source for us.
Car was stuck, and required to be pulled away again
Our guide is looking for a way
Eleven years ago, when I visited the river’s source, experts were talking about the changes of the river’s source. Today, when I took out old photos to see, they contrasted sharply with today.
this piece where We are walking seemed sandstone, one step is one trap. When our guide Got off to find the route, it liked walking on a sponge. Each individual also tried, and it was really elastic. It was a very good “cushion” if practicing tgymnastics on it.
Dig a water hole and then camp
Return after taking photographs 
Hail in the river’s source
Although it was still in the afternoon which was far from the dark. Yong Yang decided not to go. First, we would camp, and then we need find a way. From the river’s source region into glaciers, it need walk in many network water systems flowing through glaciers. So, to find a way, it was one of the biggest challenges when we move toward the true river’s source.

Dinner in the river’s source

The river’s source where we walk

Face glaciers

The water and the sky are of one hue


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